Here in the far corner of the Pacific Northwest, we’re still in the traditionally-unsettled transition from spring to summer. This year, while the Southwest literally blazes, we’re having one of those cool, wet Junes (after a very unusual heat wave in April and May, likely thanks to climate change making our weather even more wonky). So most of the high-mountain hikes are still socked in with snow, but the lower trails are showing off lush greenery and a wealth of wildflowers. This week Thor, Bear dog, and I chose Goat Mountain for our midweek outing, as the ranger station reported the route was mostly snow-free to the viewpoint 2900 feet and a lot of switchbacks above the trailhead on Hannegan Creek Road off the Mount Baker Highway.
The trail doesn’t usually beckon a lot of hikers, maybe because the lower switchbacks climb through a somewhat gloomy forest that Thor dubbed “tree hell” because of still-evident devastation from a 50-year-old fire. There’s a quiet, watchful air that makes you feel like tiptoeing and apologizing for your intrusion as you climb over some downed trees and make your way past blackened survivors. However, I always enjoy checking on this charred husk to see if it’s still standing after all these years.
The trail is cut by a lot of cascades and runoff streams from the mountain above, so Bear enjoyed lots of fresh drinks and cooling dips on the way up.
And paying attention to the trail edges brings the reward of spotting shy blooms like pipsisssewa and these twinflowers among the mossy or twiggy undergrowth.
As we climbed higher, the trail livened up with the lovely songs of winter wrens, singing their tiny hearts out from their shy hiding places, the rat-tat-tat of pileated woodpeckers working the dead trees for insects or hopefully signalling paramours, and the chittering scolding of native chicory squirrels telling Bear they wanted nothing to do with him. For about a half-mile stretch of higher switchbacks, the path was lined on both sides with these bunchberry (or miniature Canadian dogwood) blooms. I felt I was in a royal procession, honored by these forest denizens lining the route and offering their beauty to be admired.
Emerging at about the 2.5-mile point into the subalpine meadow, we could start enjoying the views of surrounding ridges and still-snowy peaks.
Here, the recently-receding snow had allowed glacier lilies to bloom and quickly start fading.
And in a soggy patch, I spotted some bog lilies.
Reaching the rocky outcrops near the top, we stopped for lunch and views. This is Mount Shuksan, with the small bare gray patch the lower ski-area lodge and slopes (toward the right just below the snowy ridge). Not visible, farther to the right, is Mount Baker, whose volcanic cone is still completely snow-covered.
Bear reveals his partial chow-chow genes by standing watch over the vistas. He loves to be up high, looking out and noticing any activity in the air or on the slopes below.
Heather blooms decorated our picnic spot.
I enjoy these phallic fellows that always pop up below the melting snow line, but haven’t been able to find a name for them. Soon they will open into the lush, spreading leaves pictured in the top photo. Anyone know what they’re called?
And, finally, bidding us a shy farewell, a lovely Queen’s cup bloom. We’ll see you all again next year!
You will find The Rambling Writer’s blogs here on alternate Saturdays. Sara’s newest from Book View Cafe was recently released in print and ebook: The Ariadne Connection. It’s a near-future thriller set in the Greek islands. “Technology triggers a deadly new plague. Can a healer find the cure?” The novel has received the Cygnus Award for Speculative Fiction.